Larson Orchard

Larson Orchard of Selah, Wash., is one of three tree fruit companies recently purchased by a North Carolina company.

WAPATO, Wash. — A North Carolina agricultural investment firm has confirmed it has purchased three Washington state fruit companies.

International Farming Corp. of Kinston, N.C., issued a press release Jan. 22 announcing the acquisition of Legacy Fruit Packers and Valley Fruit III, both of Wapato, and Larson Fruit Co. of Selah.

The combined companies will be known as Columbia River Orchards LLC.

“IFC firmly believes that Columbia River Orchard’s exceptional tree fruit land base, state-of-the-art packing and storage facilities, outstanding horticultural expertise and forward-looking marketing desk position it very well for rapid growth in the innovative Northwest tree fruit sector,” the company said in the release.

The purchase price was not disclosed. It includes 4,000 acres of orchards and two packing facilities that handle 4 million boxes of fruit annually. IFC plans to make “substantial investments in orchard and packing technology,” the press release stated. That will include expanding and developing further acreage in coming years and retaining approximately 3,000 seasonal and full-time employees and hiring additional staff as the business grows.

The purchase includes interest in Sage Fruit Co., a marketing company in Yakima and Pacific Coast Cherry Packers of Wapato. Pacific Coast was formed by Sage and Oregon Cherry Growers of The Dalles in 2011.

Larson Fruit was owned by the Larson family for three generations. Valley Fruit was also a third-generation company and owned by the Verbrugge family.

Peter Verbrugge is interim CEO of Columbia River Orchards.

Four years ago, Valley Fruit and Larson Fruit formed a new company, Legacy Fruit Packers, to build a $17 million apple-packing plant in Wapato. The deal was reached to have enough capital to build the new packing plant to remain competitive, Dean Gardner, CEO of all three companies said at the time. Valley and Larson maintained separate orchards and cherry packing lines.

IFC has roots in North Carolina agribusiness going back to 1827 and a team with global farming experience.

The firm leverages extensive agricultural operating knowledge; multi-generational industry relationships; deep understanding of the vertically integrated farm value chain; and an innovative, in-house ag-tech solutions platform, the press release states.

IFC’s platform enables its management team to frequently source off-market transactions and manage institutional-quality farmland and related operating assets for its investors.

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